Thursday, May 25, 2023

Shifting into Tenth Gear: Fast X (2023) Review

Director: Louis Leterrier 

Notable Cast: (deep breath) Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Rita Moreno, Joaquim de Almeida, Leo A. Perry


Every two to three years I get the pleasure of revisiting the Fast & Furious franchise and, in a rather unfortunate manner, the last couple of films in the series - not counting the surprisingly fun spin-off Hobbs & Shaw, have been declining returns in creativity and quality. Not that Fate of the Furious or F9: The Fast Saga don’t have their strengths or their fans, but compared to the first of the fifth, sixth, and seventh films, they just were missing that special heart that beat underneath the illogical scripts and outlandish action set pieces. 


Thus, my expectations were metered when Fast X, the tenth entry into this billion-dollar grossing action blockbuster series, was finally on track to vroom vroom its way into theaters. Could Vin Diesel and company find a way to start their own Avengers: Endgame with this reportedly first of two (or three?) “final” films in the series?


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

A-Club, Assemble: Assassin Club (2023) Review

Director: Camille Delamarre 

Notable Cast: Henry Golding, Noomi Rapace, Daniela Melchior, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Sam Neill, Anastasia Doaga, Claudio Del Falco, Gabriele Mira Rossi, Runo Bilotta, Sheena Hao, Lorenzo Buran, G-Max


There is a point around the halfway mark of Assassin Club that I came to a realization. Someone needed to recognize Henry Golding, playing the assassin with a heart Morgan, for the serious effort he is putting into this movie. At this point, he’s speaking with a “faceless” assassin, played by the always go-for-broke Noomi Rapace, over the phone about the puppet master that has set up six assassins to kill one another. No lie, he’s giving the scene 1000% more than it deserves. He is carrying the poor exposition, plot progression, and character bits kicking and screaming through that entire scene. 


Golding often oozes charisma in this film, straining under the sheer weight of a script and director that don’t understand the potential of the material outside of “look how cool this should be for the 18 to 25 male demographic,” and I almost started feeling pity for the man. After his meteoric rise with Crazy Rich Asians, his career has seemingly been ignored by the masses (even though I still believe - and will fight - for Snake Eyes) and now he’s relegated to a straight-to-home video actioner like Assassin Club


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Rise, Dead, Rise: Evil Dead Rise (2023) Review

Director: Lee Cronin

Notable Cast: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher, Anna-Maree Thomas, Mirabai Pease, Richard Crouchley, Jaden Daniels


My bias toward the Evil Dead franchise is rather blatant. The series defined my youth, characterized a large part of my taste in film, and eventually pushed my love of cinema to the next level. When Fede Alvarez nailed his Evil Dead remake in 2013, my body and mind were ready for a new era for the demonic horror series. It was time to reinvent it for a modern audience. 


Then it never happened. 

And that’s when my 10-year Evil Dead depression started. 


Fortunately, like the Deadites that infest and torture our protagonists, you can’t fuckin’ kill this series. It might have taken 10 years and required Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema to grow a brain and not push this straight to HBOMax (I’m sorry, it’s “just Max” now), but we are now treated with the latest entry, Evil Dead Rise, and it certainly rises to the occasion. At least, if you want gratuitous violence and gore, a brisk pace, and lots of physics unawareness for unspecified demonic powers. Evil Dead Rise delivers in spades the elements necessary for a great Evil Dead entry, even going so far as carrying some of its oddities along with it. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Redcaps Paddy Whacks: Unwelcome (2023) Review

Director: Joe Wright

Notable Cast: Hannah John-Kamen, Douglas Booth, Jamie Lee O’Donnell, Chris Walley, Kristian Nairn, Colm Meaney, Niamh Cusack, Lalor Roddy


Having been a big fan of Grabbers, where drunkenness is the only way to fight off an alien invasion, my expectations for director Joe Wright’s latest horror comedy, Unwelcome, were reasonably high. To try and temper those expectations, I didn’t watch or dig into any of the promotional material for it and waited patiently for its release from our friends at Well Go USA. 


While the balance of horror and humor in Unwelcome isn’t nearly as good as the previously mentioned Grabbers, it is one of the year's more offbeat and fascinating films. Mainly because, when this bad boy is boiled down to its bones, it’s basically Straw Dogs that happens to have the Far Darrig (they are NOT leprechauns) in it. Throw in a dash of Raimi-inspired slapstick horror along with some Italian gothic pops and it is a combination that should be as entertaining as it is batshit insane. Yet, as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that the balance of tones, narrative buoyancy, and darker dramatic elements just cannot find their footing.